Thursday, 18 September 2014


Universal Pictures

There is nothing to fear but fear itself. And nothing quite maintains the status quo or allows those in power -- or trying to achieve it -- from maintaining their rule then by exploiting that fear.

Fear is the weapon used by Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) as a means to achieving his aim of rising through the social ranks to gain a white hat and seat at Lord Portly-Rind's table of town elders. How? By demonizing the subterranean-dwelling Boxtrolls; positing the peaceful creatures as baby-eating monsters and himself as the only man capable of ridding the town of every single one of them.

The Boxtrolls of course have no interest in human flesh, infant or adult: they climb from the sewers at night only to collect the junk the humans have cast away. But many years ago they did indeed steal away a human boy. They didn't eat the lad -- dubbed Eggs for the label on the box he wears (all Boxtrolls wear a box for even non-God-fearing creatures like trolls must hide their shame) -- but raised him as one of their own.

Snatcher has been pedaling this misinformation about the abduction of the 'Trumpshore Baby' for years, keeping the townsfolk living in fear. But it's when Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright, a.k.a Bran from TV's Game of Thrones), while on a junk-collecting night run, meets Portly-Rind's daughter, Winnie (Elle Fanning), a young girl boasting a macabre fascination with the cannibalistic ways of the Boxtrolls, that the truth will finally out and the evil plan of Archibald Snatcher (Kingsley does great villain voice work) will be unveiled.

Laika, the animation studio responsible for Coraline (2009) and ParaNorman (2012), have again created a wonderfully inventive and comic work of stop-motion (and CGI? Surely it can't all be done by hand?) magic. Each of their films is ostensibly dark and macabre but with moral lessons delivered without a hammer.

In The Boxtrolls it is the demonizing and scapegoating of minorities for personal and political gain; a message that couldn't be any more pertinent than today, and sadly, even more so in Australia. The film also touches on class envy (it's what drives Archibald Snatcher), and the hubris of the 1 per centers. But there's comedy and grotesquery aplenty to avoid being bogged down in politics and to keep everyone entertained.

And if The Boxtrolls is not quite on the same level as ParaNorman, in terms of a cohesive whole between story, humour and execution, there's still much to be admired and to delight in.

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